The biggest trial to reduce working time has been carried out in Iceland and has turned out to be a great success, so much so that the idea should be taken up in the UK, says The Independent.
More than 1% of the Icelandic population took part in this pilot program between 2015 and 2019. The aim was to reduce the working week to 35-36 hours, without reducing the overall salary. A joint analysis by Icelandic and UK think tanks found that the trials, involving around 2,500 people, boosted their productivity and well-being and resulted in permanent change.
Icelandic unions, which collectively negotiate the wages and working conditions of most of the country’s workers, have already started negotiations to reduce the volume of working hours. The researchers estimate that as a result of new agreements reached in 2019-2021 after this trial, 86% of the entire Icelandic workforce now benefits from reduced working hours or more flexible contracts, making it possible to apply for a reduction of working time.
A model to export
The trials were launched by Reykjavik city hall and the Icelandic national government after pressure from unions and civil society. The experience included employees used to the 9 am-5pm schedule, as well as others working non-traditional schedules. It took place in workplaces such as offices, schools, hospitals and social services. Thanks to a series of indicators, think tanks Autonomy in the UK and the Association for Sustainability and Democracy (Alda) in Iceland have shown that the well-being of workers has improved considerably. Stress, burnout as well as health and work-life balance improved significantly among all groups. As a result, the productivity of individuals stagnated or increased in the majority of the workplaces in the trial.
“The experience of reducing weekly working hours in Iceland teaches us not only that it is possible to work less, even in modern times, but also that gradual change is possible”, says Gudmundur D. Haraldsson, an Alda researcher. The test had been developed so as not to change the budget of the town hall and the government. Will Stronge, Research Director at Autonomy, explains: “This study shows that the world’s largest trial of a shorter workweek in the public sector is a resounding success. It shows that the public sector is ready to be a pioneer of reduced workweeks – and that lessons need to be learned by other governments. ”
In the UK in particular, the idea of a four-day week enjoys broad support, with forty-five MPs signing a motion asking the government to study the proposal. A poll released last year by Survation found that 63% of the population supported a four-day work week without a cut in pay, and 12% opposed it.
Source: Slate.fr by www.slate.fr.
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